Łukasz Drobnik is the author of ‘Airborne’, a short story featured in The Selkie’s anthology, States of Transformation. States of Transformation is a collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that is either by writers from underrepresented/marginalised backgrounds, or representative of these groups.
Robin Brown (RB): What does the word ‘transformation’ mean to you? How did you approach this theme in your work?
Łukasz Drobnik (LD): Transformation is perhaps one of the most basic characteristics of the universe. It’s quite possible, though I would need a physicist to confirm it, that when a person dies, his or her body contains just a fraction of the same atoms they were born with. And all those atoms were once deep inside stars. It’s always interesting to look at your life and see how things have changed: who you used to be five, ten, twenty years ago; what was important to you then; who was around you. It’s even more interesting to look at things that haven’t changed that much, which in a universe governed by the merciless second law of thermodynamics is a miracle in itself. This is the main theme of ‘Airborne’. It’s a story about two people who stay together even though everything around them changes — and even though they themselves change. They need to go through crisis after crisis, each time forced to renegotiate their relationship, but in the end, they decide it’s something worth making a constant in their ever-changing lives.
It’s a story about two people who stay together even though everything around them changes.
RB: How important is it to have dedicated space for your work? Why are platforms such as these important for writers?
LD: I believe writing (or art in general) is a process of communication, albeit one-sided. Therefore, it is essential to have platforms through which writers’ voices can be heard, especially if these are underrepresented voices. I think we don’t appreciate enough the work of editors, especially those who run journals and presses out of sheer passion, with no expectation of financial gain. It’s helpful to remind oneself now and then that we wouldn’t hear a thing about most writers, even the most famous ones, if it weren’t for the first editor who looked at their work and said, okay, maybe there’s something in it.
RB: How would you describe your creative process? Do you find it uplifting or exhausting?
LD: If I were to choose one word to describe it, it would be erratic. I usually write around my day job as a freelance medical translator, and in busier periods I don’t have much time for writing. I often fail at executing this, but I have a resolution to write (or do anything writing-related, such as send out submissions) at least 25 minutes a day. I’m much better at keeping a promise to myself to take an hour-long walk each day. That’s when the best (and not so best) ideas come to mind, which I immediately note down on my phone. Most of my creative process is waiting for the accumulating sentences, phrases, plot ideas and other stray notes to reach a tipping point, where the words start to flow and the scattered bits bond together, forming a story. As regards the process itself, I find it challenging but ultimately exhilarating. There’s no better feeling in the world than being catapulted into a world you have just created.
Most of my creative process is waiting for the accumulating sentences, phrases, plot ideas and other stray notes to reach a tipping point.
RB: What other writers do you admire most?
LD: I tend to think more in terms of specific books rather than writers’ entire bodies of work. I am drawn to visually evocative style, linguistic imagination, experiment, gender-bending qualities and anything pop, so the list of books that have a special place in my heart is long and ever-changing. I should definitely mention Bruno Schulz’s The Cinnamon Shops, Viktor Pelevin’s Buddha’s Little Finger, Herta Müller’s The Land of Green Plums, Alessandro Baricco’s Ocean Sea, Witold Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke or Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Newer books that blew me away include N.J. Campbell’s Found Audio, Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo and Julian Barnes’ The Only Story. Currently, I’m reading Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young and loving every sentence of it.
RB: How do you measure success as a writer? What do you hope to achieve with your work?
LD: Although it is not easy, I try not to measure my success in terms of publications. There were years when I didn’t see any of my writing published, so I don’t panic if I don’t receive any acceptance in, say, several months. I’m still astounded each and every time someone accepts my work. The same way I couldn’t believe it when, almost fourteen years ago, I sent out a story to the legendary Polish lit mag Lampa, and the editor-in-chief, Paweł Dunin-Wąsowicz, decided to publish it. Or when Anna De Vaul of Lighthouse accepted my very first piece written in English, which is my second language. Or when Joseph Spece of Fathom Books said he enjoyed my novel Nocturine, which will be out in a few months’ time (and I couldn’t be happier about it). However, as much as this kind of recognition is exciting and much appreciated, I think the most rewarding kind of success is when a reader reaches out to me and says they enjoyed my writing. That it moved them or changed something in the way they see things. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it always blows my mind and helps me keep going.
I think the most rewarding kind of success is when a reader reaches out to me and says they enjoyed my writing.